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Welcome, new readers!

Four welcome books — two easy readers and two beginning chapter books — invite new readers in using humor and tried-and-true formats and structures.

Willems_ThankYouBookThe Thank You Book is (sob!) the final entry in Mo Willems’s hugely popular series of easy readers featuring the free-spirited Piggie and her best friend, the reliable if sometimes officious elephant, Gerald. Here, appropriately, Piggie wants to thank everyone who has touched her life. (“Everyone?” says Gerald. “You will forget someone.”) This gives Willems — and readers — the welcome excuse to revisit favorite characters from previous adventures. You think you know where this is going, and it’s true that Piggie does forget to thank Gerald. However, in another hallmark of the series, Willems provides an additional narrative twist, with an ending that is sweet, silly, ironic, humorous, and heartfelt. In other words, it’s everything the Elephant & Piggie series has been all along. (Hyperion, 4–7 years)

yoon_duckporcupinePicture book creator Salina Yoon turns her hand to easy readers in the fresh and funny Duck, Duck, Porcupine!. Three short chapters follow the adventures of three friends: Big Duck has lots of ideas but not too much sense; Porcupine follows her lead; and Little Duck is always one step ahead of them both. Throughout, Little Duck never speaks, but frequent glances out into the audience humorously invite readers to commiserate with his plight. Bright colors, heavy outlines, and minimal backgrounds keep young viewers’ attentions focused on the simple action and interaction between the characters. And all the natural-sounding dialogue takes place in speech balloons unambiguously placed on the page, a boon to beginning readers. (Bloomsbury, 4–7 years)

angleberger_inspectorFlytrapIn beginning chapter book Inspector Flytrap, husband and wife Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell team up to introduce an unusual detective duo: a Venus flytrap and his goat sidekick. In three easy-reading stories, the Flytrap Detective Agency solves mysteries involving an emu, a dodo, some stinky cookies, a giant peg-leg pirate — and plenty of kid-appealing (sometimes gross-out) humor. Bell’s generous illustrations spill across the pages and humorously set the hard-boiled, mean-streets scene, complete with beat-up office and Bakelite phone; they even manage the challenge of giving a potted plant both personality and verve. (Abrams/Amulet, 5–8 years)

lareau_infamousratsosRat brothers Ralphie and Louie Ratso, stars of The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau, decide to cement their tough-guy reputations by playing mean tricks on their classmates and neighbors. But each successive attempt backfires, resulting in changed — for the better — relationships and outlooks for the brothers. The book’s structure, with its repeated setup of planned trick and failed outcome, gives newly independent readers lots of room for making predictions. Matt Myers’s black-and-white illustrations reinforce the storyline and the light yet poignant tone of LaReau’s text, with its natural vocabulary. Here’s a beginning chapter book with heart. (Candlewick, 5–8 years)

From the August 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.



  1. Great choices. I love all four!

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